Background and purpose: To test the hypothesis that deficiency in expression of the transcription factor, HIF-1, renders tumours more radioresponsive than HIF-1 proficient tumours. Patients and methods: Tumours comprising mouse hepatoma cells lacking HIF-1β (and thereby HIF-1 function) were grown in nude mice and radiation-induced growth delay compared with that seen for wild-type tumours and tumours derived from HIF-1β negative cells where HIF-1 function had been restored. Results: The xenografts that lack HIF-1 activity take longer to establish their growth and are more radioresponsive than both parental xenografts and those with restored HIF-1 function. Pre-treatment of the HIF-1 deficient xenografts with the hypoxic radiosensitizer misonidazole, had little effect on radioresponse. In contrast this treatment radiosensitized the parental xenografts. In spite of this, no difference in oxygenation status was found between the tumour types as measured by Eppendorf O 2-electrodes and by binding of the hypoxic cell marker NITP. Admixing wild type and HIF-1 deficient cells in the same tumour at ratios of 1 in 10 and 1 in 100 restores the growth of the mixed tumours to that of a 100% HIF-1 proficient cell population. However, when comparing the effects of radiation on the mixed tumours, radioresponsiveness is maintained in those tumours containing the high proportion of HIF-1 deficient cells. Conclusions: The differences in radioresponse do not correlate with tumour oxygenation, suggesting that the hypoxic cells within the HIF-1 deficient tumours do not contribute to the outcome of radiotherapy. Thus, hypoxia impacts on tumour radioresponsiveness not simply because of the physio-chemical mechanism of oxygen with radiation-induced radicals causing damage 'fixation', but also because hypoxia/HIF-1 promotes expression of genes that allow tumour cells to survive under these adverse conditions. Further, the results from the cell mixing experiments uncouple the growth promoting effects of HIF-1 and the underlying mechanism by which HIF-1 may increase radiation resistance in solid tumours. © 2005 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
- Tumour microenvironment